Gordie Howe International Bridge a Nice Tribute; Gordie Howe Arena Would Be a Bonus
On Friday June 10th, the world of hockey and Michigan sports fans lost one of their most beloved. Gordie Howe, known to many as “Mr. Hockey”, died at the age of 88. A bronze statue inside Joe Louis Arena is a nice tribute to Howe, who played professional hockey in six different decades. Even prior to Howe’s death, we knew he would get a fitting tribute with the appropriately named Gordie Howe International Bridge, mirroring his path of Canada to Detroit. A revived push to change the name of the new Detroit Red Wings arena to Gordie Howe Arena puts some pressure on Red Wings owners.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gordie Howe in 1995 at the age of 9. This meeting happened at a K-Wings game in Kalamazoo. Gordie was there with his wife Colleen signing his autobiography book “And Howe”. He was only signing his books on this day and not other souvenirs. Howe motioned for my brother and I to come up to the table as we stood in awe just watching the legend. He graciously signed our tickets and I will never forget how nice he was to us. Jon saw Gordie again years later at a Grand Rapids Griffins game. They chatted for awhile outside Van Andel Arena. While Jon and I both never saw Gordie play, we are fortunate to grow up with memories told to us by others of what he meant to the team and the city of Detroit.
The Gordie Howe International Bridge will span from Detroit to Canada across the Detroit River. The bridge will use major highways to have an uninterrupted flow of traffic and avoid city streets. The current Ambassador Bridge connecting the two countries goes through city streets in Canada. The bridge was approved in 2013, after a lengthy battle with current Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun. An estimated 18,500 or more will cross the new bridge daily, increasing to more than 20,000 within 10 years. Around 25% of the $700 billion in annual trade between Canada and the United States currently crosses the Ambassador Bridge.
Prior to being named the Gordie Howe International Bridge, the new bridge had several working names. Among them were the Detroit River International Crossing and New International Crossing. On May 14th, 2015, it was announced that the bridge would be named after Howe. This came of course after Howe had seen declining health from the major stroke he suffered (2014).
I was so happy to see another bridge from Detroit to Canada get approved. The relationship between Canada and the United States is important to our economy and supports our dominance in the automobile market. Naming the bridge the Gordie Howe International Bridge pays tribute to the greatest hockey player ever and an important Michigan sports icon. The bridge perfectly represents the path Howe took from Canada (Saskatchewan) to Detroit.
Gordie Howe played 26 seasons spanning 1946 to 1980. He played in the NHL (26 seasons), WHA (2 seasons) and 1 game in the IHL. Howe was a 23 time all-star. Howe helped the Red Wings win 4 Stanley Cups during his time with the team. He also won individual awards like the Hart Trophy (6x) and Art Ross (6x). Howe led the league in scoring for seven seasons. He also was in the top ten for scoring for a phenomenal 21 consecutive seasons.
Here are Howe’s career stats:
|Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points||Penalty Min.|
In 2007, a new bronze statue was unveiled at Joe Louis Arena honoring Howe. The statue is 12 feet tall and weighs 4500 pounds. The statue lists Howe’s hockey career statistics. This statue will likely make the trip to the new Little Caesars Arena, in downtown Detroit. It’s worth arguing that the statue should be moving to the Gordie Howe Arena.
In April it was announced that the new Red Wings arena set to open in 2017 will be called the Little Caesars Arena. This name mirrors other teams selling their naming rights for annual payments and also will be named after the business owned by the Ilitch family that owns the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers.
Fans were unhappy then and that mood will escalate now with Howe’s death. A movement to get the stadium named after Gordie Howe has picked up steam. A petition on change.org has more than 15,000 signatures at the time of this article.
It’s worth noting that stadiums being named after companies is the norm for professional sports. It provides money to the owners and helps with costs associated to run a sports team in times of good and bad. The current Joe Louis Arena is one of only two NHL stadiums (with Madison Square Garden) to not have corporate naming rights.
In 1979, the Joe Louis Arena opened as the new home of the Red Wings. That name honored the famous boxer who was from Detroit. Like Howe, Louis wasn’t born in Detroit. He moved there with his family at age 12 before becoming a professional boxer. Louis would go on to fight 10 of his 70 professional matches in Detroit. Like Louis, Howe was beloved by the city of Detroit and made the city synonymous with his respective sport. If it wasn’t for Howe, Hockeytown may not get the national love it has come to know.
The Ilitch family is in a tough spot here. They wanted to get some money from the naming rights and also support their other business. With the timing of Howe’s death and the fan pressure, I think the Red Wings will eventually end up changing the name to the Gordie Howe Arena. Or perhaps they should take former Detroit reporter Tom Leyden’s advice:
Little Caesar’s Gordie Howe Arena. Do it @DetroitRedWings
— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) June 13, 2016
If you weren’t already planning to attend a Detroit Red Wings game in the 2016-2017 season, you may want to consider going. The season will mark the farewell to Joe Louis Arena. I’m guessing there will be a couple real nice tributes to Howe and this season will mean something extra to the players and fans alike.